A recent poll as reported by the Jordan Times shows that 60.7 per cent of respondents agreed with the establishment of a 20 per cent quota for women in municipal councils as suggested in the draft municipalitiesÃ¢?? law.
I haven’t heard any real counter-argument to why there is a need for such a quota, specifically at the municipal level (if you have one I’d love to hear it), so I’m sticking with my previous thoughts regarding this issue. However I do admit that I am looking at this from an abstract point of view as well as a more semi-idealistic kind of how-politics-should-be rather than what-politics-is. I base this on the account that I feel people should be elected to political office a) on their own merit and b) by the will of the people. Its politics, you run, you win, end of story. To repeat myself from a post back in December when women groups were pressuring the government for a 15 to 20% quota…
If 2003 serves any example: at the time 46 women ran and only 5 won although the government appointed one woman in every municipality where the woman candidate lost in public elections. That came out to be 97 of the 99 municipalities. Note: 46 ran, 5 won, the government appointed 97.
This was six months ago and I’m still against the government having to appoint anyone on this level anyway, so I’ve come a long way.
Nevertheless I think this is a telling poll and here’s why…
Ã¢??The poll results mark a new stage for womenÃ¢??s participation in political and social life,Ã¢?Â said Senator and Secretary General of the Jordanian National Forum For Women (JNFW) Mai Abul Samen.
Ã¢??We think this means that the society is ready for women to participate as full partners,Ã¢?Â she added.
Abdul Samen attributes majority support for women in elected office to two factors: Ã¢??The success of women in key political roles in the past 10 yearsÃ¢?Â and the struggle of womenÃ¢??s organisations and pressure groups to change legislation and public mindset.
Doesn’t that say it all? The quota is placed as a safeguard, as a way of ensuring that women get elected. Why? Because we are a traditional backwards people and can’t be relied on to give political power to women…
In a recent interview with The Jordan Times, political analyst Amal Sabbagh described the municipalities quota as positive. She added, however, that although she welcomed the step, Ã¢??I would still hope that the Parliament quota will be maintained in the Lower House because the Jordanian population still requires such an electoral system before it totally overcomes its psychological barrier about womenÃ¢??s political participation.Ã¢?Â
Here’s where I have problems with this argument. If a poll suggests the overwhelming majority of Jordanians support women playing a role in politics, to the extent that they support a quota system, doesn’t that suggest something about the psychological barriers? Doesn’t that suggest, and I’m no pollster but 60% is a big number in my head, that perhaps, maybe, I’m just saying here, that women don’t need the help we think they need in Jordanian politics? And what does it mean to totally overcome these barriers? Do we put a quota system until the number of women elected is 50% and men the other 50%? Great, I have no problem with that, except for the fact that we will never see that. I don’t really know a country where political power is evenly divided amongst the sexes. Correct me if I’m wrong. I respect the struggle to change the people’s mindset, it has obviously worked; but changing legislation?
That’s the bigger problem: this is going to be a law. And I’m going out on a limb to assume that it will pass.
I am willing to factor in recent regional events: the rise of Hamas in Palestine, the shutout of women in Kuwait (by Islamists and reformists). Nevertheless, despite regional tensions, which I acknowledge play some role on the home front, we have our own unique political culture and we should focus on that.
For God’s sake, letÃ¢??s put away the booster seats and safety measures and build a meritocracy for once. Is that so idealistic?
I donÃ¢??t know; maybe it is.